Youth offenders of heinous crimes may be confined
RAMON TULFO, in his article “Boy rapist goes scot-free” (Metro, 5/2/15), wrote:
“Under the Pangilinan law, a minor who is 15 years old or younger cannot go to jail for any criminal offense he commits, no matter how grave it is.” He is wrong.
While a child cannot be put in jail together with hardened criminals, he can’t go scot-free. Republic Act No. 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act clearly states: The “exemption from criminal liability herein established does not include exemption from civil liability, which shall be enforced in accordance with existing laws.”
Moreover, amendments to the law introduced by then senator and now Secretary Francis Pangilinan in 2013 provide that in heinous crimes, minors should be subject to mandatory involuntary confinement in youth care centers called Bahay Pagasa and subject to intervention programs as provided by law. Considered heinous crimes are murder, infanticide, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, rape, destructive arson and crimes punishable under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. Thus, releasing the boy rapist was in violation of the law.
In July 2013, following amendments designed to strengthen it, RA 9344 became RA 10630. The amendatory law provides that any child aged 12 to 15 who committed a heinous crime punishable by more than 12 years imprisonment should be deemed a neglected child under the Child and Youth Welfare Code. As a neglected child, the minor should be placed under a special facility called the Intensive Juvenile Intervention and Support Center (JISC), where he/she is to undergo the proper intervention program. It is the duty of the social welfare officer of either the local government unit where the crime was committed or of the Department of Social Welfare and Development to file in court the petition for the involuntary JISC confinement of the minor.
Where does “scot-free” fall in any of these processes? Just because all of these processes are reformative rather than punitive in nature do not make them wrong. That is what Tulfo refuses to recognize, despite the many letters to the editor sent to clarify and explain the spirit of the law. Tulfo never rectified all his assumptions; worse, he continues to spread falsehoods about the law and adds to the confusion among law enforcers and the citizenry.
It is a paramount responsibility of journalists to verify the facts on which they base a story and to ensure that the information they give would help readers get a clearer understanding of the issues involved. It does not help if an article is colored by falsehood or bias that muddles the truth.
Our appeal to the critics: Read, understand and know the law, and help us implement it to its fullest extent, for the sake of our children and our society.
—RACHEL G. GILLEGO, chief of staff, Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization
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